Zen And The Art of Gift Wrap

Zen And The Art of Gift Wrap

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m a gift gabber. A present pronouncer. A what’s-in-the-box? A blabbermouth.

Or at least, I used to be. I haven’t given away anyone’s big Christmas gift in at least … well, let’s just say it’s been a really long time.

Not that anyone in my family would ever let me forget it. Sure, some people could look at it as ruining the surprise, but honestly, Darla was very excited and happy when I asked her if she liked her contacts. In fact, she started screaming and clapping with joy, “I’m getting contacts? I’m getting contacts?”

How was I supposed to know she hadn’t opened them yet? We had been opening presents for hours… hours! And I had to take a bathroom break. So when Darla headed into the bathroom, all excited and thrilled about some gift she had opened, I just naturally assumed it was the contacts, and she wanted to put them in. Anybody would have thought the same thing.

Of course, it would have been better, if the year before, I hadn’t given away the fact that she was getting a stereo for her room. Or the year before that, I hadn’t told Sharla that she was getting a stereo for her car.

It’s not as if being surprised by Christmas gifts was that big of a deal to them anyway. Sharla and Marla routinely unwrapped every gift under the tree. One year, they skated in the house in Sharla’s roller skates, played with Darla’s Barbie, and broke it then wrapped them back up.

At least I didn’t break Darla’s contacts before I gave away the surprise. And she was surprised.

Very. And in a good way, I might add. Not surprised, as in “My Barbie doll’s neck is broken!”

In fact, unwrapping and re-wrapping the Christmas gifts got to be such a family tradition among three of the Whitehead girls that they were in big demand at Christmas, in the gift-wrapping department at the local men’s store. For them, crime really did pay, as they honed their skills with paper, tape and ribbon with years of disassembling gifts of every size. And we’re talking gifts wrapped in cheap paper, too, not the heavy foil kind that the tape doesn’t stick to all that well.

Not that I know anything about the surreptitious unwrapping of Christmas gifts.

Not me. I was never hired on at Bradbury and Graner’s. I toiled for years trying to make a Christmas bow. If it hadn’t been for the invention of wired ribbon, my gifts would still be sporting those cheap stick-on bows – which, in my family, are akin to wearing a clip-on tie. It just isn’t done.

I’ve seen the looks, the sympathy in their voices when they tell me how nice my gifts look. I knew they were pitiful.

I can’t help it if I didn’t inherit the gift – and didn’t make a career of unwrapping my Christmas presents.

Marla doesn’t even need to measure paper. She can still wrap a gift using exactly three pieces of tape. Darla doesn’t even need tape. She can just origami a gift. I swear she could wrap a Big Wheel and make it look like a whooping crane.

Sharla was a little like me, but then Marla taught her everything she knew. That’s practically like being Merlin’s apprentice.

Not me. It’s taken years of practice and dedication to the craft to get to the point where my gifts don’t look as if they’ve accidentally tumbled from Santa’s bag. From about 5,000 feet. Through a dense forest.

Fortunately, modern technology has made magic unnecessary, and provided me with a more level playing field.

It’s called…the gift bag.


Marla’s Cherry Cheesecake Surprise

  • 1 graham cracker crust
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 c. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 can cherry pie filling, chilled

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in the sweetened condensed milk gradually, until smooth. Add lemon juice and vanilla. Pour into prepared crust. Chill for three hours, or until set. Serve, topped with pie filling.

Note: The recipe calls for cherry pie filling, not maraschino cherries, as Marla mistakenly read, the first time she made it. Surprise!

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